NZ WW1 Certificates of Service

in May 1918 NZ Newspapers were announcing that the UK War Office had approved the award of a special certificate of honour to be called the “King’s Certificate” for those discharged through wounds or disabilities incurred on active service or directly attributable to “the action of the enemy”. The Certificate was designed by Punch Artist Bernard PARTRIDGE. This certificate was available to be issued to members of the 1st NZEF. To apply soldiers discharged prior to 16 December 1918 had to write in, stating the grounds of their application, to Base Records, Wellington.


Below is the NZ Service Certificate to the same man. The above was issued to all members of the Commonwealth that was discharged due to wounds the NZ Certificate was only issued to the kiwis.


The NZ Government made a  decision in early 1919 to issue a similar looking certificate to the one signed by the King to all discharged servicemen who had served in the 1st NZEF (this was being reported in the Herald newspaper in February 1919). Interestingly the initial intention was to have two types of certificate, one for those who served overseas and one for those who only served for a year or more in NZ. Mid way through 1919 adverts appeared in newspapers advertising a competition for the design for these certificates and was opened up to local artist and designers. The prize for the top eight designs would have a share of 100 pounds. The entries for this design had to reach the Government Printer before noon 1 September 1919. On the 6 October 1919 the winner of the design for the overseas certificate was announced(winning 50 pounds), he was Robert HAWCRIDGE. At the same time as this winner was announced it was also mentioned that a suitable design for the Home Service certificate could not be found and that another round of the competition would be opened. I have never seen a certificate for NZ Home Service so can only assume a design was never approved and they were never issued. Robert HAWCRIDGE , whose name appears near the right hand bottom of the certificate, was born in Yorkshire and was a noted lithographer and book illustrator. At the time of the competition he was the Director of the Dunedin School of Art, a position he held until his death in January 1920. The finalized design was printed by the Government Printer in Wellington and started going out to former service men in late 1920 (the Evening post was reporting that by 16 November 1920, 25,000 certificates, of the expected 80,000, had been issued). Former servicemen were not required to apply for the certificate but were expected to complete and return a confirmation of service form (form BR 388). Copies of these little yellow and white forms are usually found glued to the front of the History sheet on the service file. These forms were also used for the final engraving details on the service medals (example of the form signed by Michael, below).


Not all NZEF service men were issued a certificate, however, there were some who were disqualified from having them issued. These included men found guilty and court marshaled for desertion, men discharged on account of misconduct or on conviction by civil power or on being sentenced to penal servitude. Interestingly when the five New Zealanders who where executed for military offences during the 1st WW were posthumously pardoned by the NZ Government in 2000, their families were issued with their medals and a new version of the service certificate by the NZDF. A new certificate was created by deleating a serviceman’s details from an original and then reprinting. These certificates still had the original Minister of Defences name, Allen and are still signed by the then Governor General, Liverpool.

The illuminated certificate was not intended to be issued to the next of kin of deceased 1st NZEF soldiers as it was believed, at the time, that the memorial plaque and scroll more than adequately commemorated their service than a certificate would. However in early 1922 the then Minister of Defence, HEATON RHODES, announced that there had been a change to this decision and that Cabinet had now approved the issue of this certificate to next of kin. The certificate for discharged personnel was amended with the details of war service being changed to record place and date of death. The Minister advised families that there would be a delay in issuing these certificates as it was intended to wait until all the medals had been issued. There was no application for the posthumous certificate of service as Base Records already had recent next of kin information, including address details already on file.

Below is the letter from the Minister of Defence Sir R HEATON RHODES that was sent to the next of kin along with the illuminated certificate for soldiers who died in service. This particular letter is dated 04 September 1922.

Illuminated cert letter

WW1 Certificate of service full

WW1 Certificate of service date died


Below is the tube this scroll was posted to the family in.

This scroll commemorated the service of 25/600 Bryce CLIVE. He was wounded in action on the 24 September 1916 and died as a result of his wounds on the 2 October 1916. He was buried at Heilly Station Cemetery.

B Clive fileGravestone

You might notice that this headstone has two names on it, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website notes that this was because “The burials in this cemetery were carried out under extreme pressure and many of the graves are either too close together to be marked individually, or they contain multiple burials. Some headstones carry as many as three sets of casualty details”

From the same website here are two documents relating to the headstone and grave.

Bryce was a casualty of the NZ Divisions first action on the Western Front when it took part in the Somme.

On 15th September 1916 the New Zealand Division began their assault at the Somme. They attacked at dawn, advancing heavily laden across ‘No Man’s Land’ to fight the enemy hand to hand in a maze of trenches. When they withdrew on 3-4 October 1916, 1560 men had died and 5400 were wounded. By the time the battle ended, stopped by mud and exhaustion in November 1916, over one million British and Commonwealth men had been killed or wounded for only a few kilometres of ground taken.

Below is a map showing the advances made by the NZ Division from 15 September till 3 October 1916. This map is from the excellent resource NZ’s service file notes that at the time he was wounded he was serving in “D”Company, 3rd Battalion, NZ Rifle Brigade (NZRB). The official History of the NZRB records from the period 18 to 25 September; “The Brigade remained in Divisional reserve until the night: of 18th/19th September, when it moved forward into the intermediate area, with the 4th Battalion in Switch Trench and the remaining battalions in rear. Heavy rain had come on during the 18th, and the shattered surface of the country rapidly deteriorated into a sea of mud. During the following week the Brigades relieved one another in succession. The weather was too unfavourable for operations beyond small affairs of outposts, but no adverse conditions were permitted to interfere with work devoted to extending and improving the saps, strengthening the posts, and preparing generally for either continuing the advance or withstanding counter-developments.”






4 thoughts on “NZ WW1 Certificates of Service

  1. Dear Sir, what a pleasure to come upon your site. I have been doing the history of my great uncle, William Evelyn Hendrey 36811 who died of wounds, WW1, on 24 December 1917.
    On the 22 January 2020, my 97 year old Aunt showed the service certificate etc., still in postal tube. I have been working through the documentation & may require guidance on various aspects of the history. I look forward to further interest. Thankyou. MikeOB.


  2. Hello Michael. Having a look at the service file of William Hendrey and the official history of the Canterbury Battalion, it looks like he was posted to the 1st Battalion on the 19 December and then wounded only 3 days latter while the 1st Battalion Canterbury Regiment was 1/2 miles south of Ypres at New Hutting Camp.


  3. I am delighted to have come across this as it helped me transcribe and understand the Illuminated Certificate for my Uncle George Allen Hill who lost his life at Chanuk Bair on 8 August 2015.


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